Cindric staying positive into win-or-bust Daytona weekend

It might be a little too late, but Austin Cindric believes the No. 2 team has “gotten our act together” over the last month of NASCAR Cup Series competition.

It’s been a frustrating year for Cindric and his group, one that has required going back to the basics and focusing on fundamentals. Things finally hit their climax recently of not being able to do their jobs all at the same time.

But the good news is that the NASCAR championship format can be forgiving, as Cindric could win his way into the postseason Saturday night in Daytona. And he can only qualify for the postseason via a victory as he is 22nd in the point standings.


“There are certainly points of the year where I think I work with enough talented people that if someone has done something wrong or if I’ve done something wrong … we’re pretty quick to stick our hands up and say, ‘Hey that was on me today,’” Cindric said. “So, I don’t think any of the tough conversations have been tough to have. Maybe that’s the best way to put it because I think the expectations for myself and my team and of our team are high and justifiably so.

“So from that standpoint, we try and get the best, and sometimes when you’re not able to get much of anything out of a race weekend, like I said before, you got to go back to the basics. I think in the last month, we’ve done a very good job at execution, something that has come at a premium, I would say, for the first half of the season for us. Unfortunately, we’re getting to that point right before the cutoff of the regular season.”

Cindric has three top-16 finishes in the last three races. A sixth-place finish on the streets of Chicago tied Cindric’s best result of the season, which was also at Las Vegas and Circuit of The Americas. In 13 of 25 races, Cindric has finished outside the top 20.

The 2023 season has felt more like a rookie season and full of learning for Cindric than his 2022 rookie season did.

“It’s hard to understand or attribute it to what or why — I can’t just sit here and tell you one thing, but, yes, this year feels different because I’ve run a lot worse than last year,” Cindric said. “There’s a lot more days of looking in the mirror and trying to figure out how to change or refine my process to absolutely maximize every race event, so that’s been a constant battle. I’m a pretty self-motivated person, internally motivated person and when things aren’t going right, I’m usually the first person I look at, and that’s what my team expects out of me.

“At the same time, how do things that I do affect the people around me and all of those things, whether it’s leadership qualities or just trying to figure out mechanically how to make the car go fast. Whether it’s with pieces and parts on the car or how I’m driving the car; so there’s been a lot of those difficult Sunday nights because it’s definitely been different not running well.”

Daytona launched Cindric straight into the playoffs last year in the most dramatic of ways. Rusty Jarrett/Motorsport Images

Cindric also didn’t have to worry about fighting for a playoff spot last season because he won the season-opening Daytona 500. In fact, Cindric has never experienced being on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoffs because in every NASCAR national series he’s competed in full-time, he’s been a part of them.

“I don’t know what that’s like, standing around with your hands in your pockets,” Cindric joked.

Cindric finished third in the Craftsman Truck Series playoffs in his lone season in the series (2017). He finished no worse than eighth in the Xfinity Series playoffs in four consecutive seasons, including winning the 2020 championship.

It was a 12th-place finish in points for Cindric in the Cup Series last season.

“It’ll be different territory next week if I’m not in the playoffs,” Cindric said. “There are times in my career where I’ve had to fight to get into the playoffs; that’s the point of the playoff format. So I have been there before and even trying to make it round to round in the playoffs is a similar situation.

“My playoff experience probably, I would say mentally, would help someone in this situation because it is the same, similar win and you’re in. You have to execute on one day even in the Championship 4 situation, so I think just being able to have experience racing under pressure definitely doesn’t hurt, and you mix that with speedway racing, and it’s going to be a hell of a weekend.”

Story originally appeared on Racer